If Schultz runs for president, will business-oriented Republicans planning to hold nose & vote for Trump instead desert the Donald for Mr. Café Latte?

In daydreams I imagine a 2020 Democratic presidential ticket consisting of some combination of Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Jeff Merkel, Chris Murphy and Kamala Harris trouncing Trump or whoever the GOP nominates in 2020. Sometimes I throw Corey Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand into the mix, or reluctantly configure a ticket that includes pre-boomers Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. My craziest fantasy is that Democrats nominate Hillary and she gets her, and the country’s, sweet revenge.

Really, I’d be delighted with just about any Democrat considering a presidential run, except for Beto or Tulsi. But like most people I know fed up with Donald Trump’s stupidity, racism, anti-intellectualism, bad policies and possible treason, I’d hold my nose and even vote for these inexperienced and undistinguished centrists rather than chance another term of ignorant and autocratic insanity.

But this week, those dreams turned ugly as I pondered the very real possibility that in November of 2020 Americans have the choice of a qualified Democrat versus two unqualified conservatives, Howard Schultz and Donald Trump. If Schultz runs, most experts and pundits expect him to filch more voters from Democrats than from Republicans, for one simple reason: Schultz, who proclaims he is a Democrat, will split the anyone-but-Trump vote. Non-racist centrists and conservatives planning to vote Democratic will flock to the Starbuck’s founder instead. In both 2000 and 2016, votes for third-party candidates handed the election to an unqualified Republican candidate who got fewer votes than a qualified Democrat.

I’m not sure whether this analysis is correct. We know that many business-oriented Republicans—you know, those who only care about low taxes on the wealthy and no government regulation of business—voted for Trump rather than any Democrat. It’s possible that those voters, fearful that a Democratic president will reverse Trump’s regulatory rollback and enormous tax cut for the well-heeled, are currently planning to vote Trump again, but will see Schultz as a “responsible” business-friendly alternative. In such a scenario, Schultz hurts Trump.

No one really knows what Mr. Café Latte’s influence on voters will be, but whatever it is, an independent Schultz run complicates the race into something other than Trump versus decency and science.  

Schultz qualifications are as illusory as Beto’s. That he is at all qualified to be president is as ridiculous as the false but highly publicized notion that Hillary or Warren are not likeable or that Octavio-Cortez acts inappropriately. But as long as the mainstream and right-wing news media keeps pumping out these myths, the American public will have to shift through the deceptive labeling and conflation.

If Schultz runs, the media will have a field day repositioning the Democratic candidate, making her/him seem far more left-wing than he/she really is. They will keep jabbering that Schultz is a centrist, someone who represents a middle position between the generic Democrat and Trump.

His statements about issues so far put Schultz at the far right of the Democratic Party, inhabiting a space similar to Beto or West Virginia’s Joe Manchin: He thinks the national debt is the most important problem facing the country. Remember, just about every politician who has ever stated that the deficit was our biggest threat, or a bigger threat than global warming or wealth inequality, has proposed cutting Social Security and Medicare to close the deficit. While Schultz favors same-sex marriage, gun control and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, he has stated explicitly that universal healthcare—“Medicare for all”—is un-American. His negative comments about Alexandria Octavio-Cortez’s realistic and fiscally responsible proposal to raise marginal tax rates to 70% suggests that his stated support of comprehensive tax reform probably means he wants the middle class and poor to pay more and the rich to keep paying a miniscule portion of their fair share. He wants to enhance border security, but is against building a wall.

There are a lot of issues about which Schultz hasn’t thought or has only expressed superficial or fuzzy ideas, unlike the typical candidate who has a long list of positions and specific proposed legislation before forming an exploratory committee. Whereas Harris, Gillibrand and Warren will be able to give you detailed policy analysis on every major or minor issue, for the most part Schultz hasn’t thought through much, not even his aversion to budget deficits.

And yet the news media takes him seriously!

Schultz’ billions of dollars and public visibility as the creator of one of the most prominent 21st century brands gives him several unfair advantages over other candidates for president. First and foremost, his money and prominence enable Schultz to capture the imagination of the news media, much as Trump did. He is immediately considered serious, regardless of his lack of policy or government experience. The quality of his ideas matters not. Now in Schultz’s case, he really has had great success in business, unlike Trump who has run every business he ever managed into the ground except for his forays into entertainment and branding. But over the history of the United States, there has been absolutely no correlation between success in business and success in government.  More important, only one president never either served in the military or in government before his election. That, of course, is the disaster who won the Electoral College vote in 2016.

Mr. Café Latte’s money enables him to ignore the primaries, and thus avoid the sifting through of candidates and positions that a political party does before agreeing on a nominee. Obama, Hillary, Bush II and even the Donald fought heavily contested primaries. By virtue of his billions, Schultz can automatically declare himself a finalist. Like so much in today’s society, it’s the privilege of instant credibility that is reserved only for the ultra-wealthy.

If Schultz is a patriot and not another billionaire full of himself, he will either run in the Democratic primaries or declare himself out of the race. If he truly cares about the United States, he will realize that his independent candidacy will only make things easier for Donald Trump. If he truly respects our American democracy, he won’t use his money to cut in line, but follow the system of primaries and caucuses that we have established after a few centuries of trial and error.  

AUMFs are really MFs, as they give POTUS authority to wage wars w/o first asking Congress. Let’s support Barbara Lee’s legislation to repeal 2001 & 2002 AUMFs

Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California wants to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) and the 2002 Iraq AUMF, which three presidents have now used to start shooting wars in what the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) calculates to be 18 different countries.

AUMFs authorize the president as commander-in-chief to authorize the use of American military forces unilaterally, without having to go to Congress for the permission or money. The 2001 AUMF enabled President Bush II legally to invade Afghanistan, and pretty much anywhere else he wanted to send troops. The 2002 AUMF specifically allowed Bush II to invade Iraq without having to go back to Congress for approval.   

These AUMFs are really MFs, to use the parlance of Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. Until repealed, they just keep on keeping on, giving a legal fig leaf to unconstitutional authoritarian actions by the president. Our Constitution states that Congress has the sole authority to decide when we go to war. Yet a majority of current members of Congress did not vote on any war that the United States is currently fighting.  

To most Representatives and Senators, handing war-making authority to the president lets them off the hook with their constituents. They can say that they are in favor of or against a particular conflict, but they never have to have a voting record to put the lie to their words. It gives foreign powers—and the president himself (until a woman president comes along)—the illusion that the country is unified in supporting the war. Of course, I dare say most Americans would be unable to name the 18 countries in which we have fought under cover of the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs.

Tragic to note, not one of these wars has worked out with the U.S. getting what it wants. Iraq was perhaps the most foolish American invasion ever and led to the growth of ISIS throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. Afghanistan has been the quagmire that even a cursory reading of world history would have predicted.

We must repeal the two AUMFs as a first step in shrinking the military budget and changing U.S. foreign policy to focus on multilateral negotiations and economic actions, not brute force. In 2019, the United States is going to spend more than $700 billion in the military budget. We could easily cut the military budget to under $400 billion if we withdrew from our many dirty little wars and stopped development of robotic weapons that work without human command and the next generation of nuclear weapons.

Imagine having $300 billion to spend on building dedicated mass transit, fixing roads, bridges and sewer systems, cutting the number of children in public elementary school classes, preparing vulnerable areas for extreme weather events and investing in carbon neutral technologies. Combine that with the billions more we could raise by doing what Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposes: returning to the income tax system pre-Reagan, when the highest marginal rate was 70%. Then we would have enough to address our many social problems and pay down our national debt. The entire history of the United States and the Western European democracies demonstrate that replacing military spending with domestic investments and raising taxes on the wealthy leads to a stronger economy in which there are mostly middle class people, with few ultra-wealthy. The opposite approach, favored by Republicans, of lowering taxes on the wealthy and spending as much as possible on the military to the detriment of domestic programs, has proven to create a society in which most are struggling to get by and a few have fabulous incomes and assets.

Repealing the AUMFs thus carries constitutional, moral, foreign policy and economic implications. Constitutionally, it will put war-making decisions back where they belong—in the hands of Congress. The moral dimension is obvious: fewer wars, less death, destruction and displacement. On the foreign policy level, we will end up in fewer wars, because the bar for starting a war will be much higher—not just the whim of an imperial president, but the vote of democratic Congress. Finally the economic case for repealing the AUMFs is compelling: fewer wars means fewer expenditures, which in turn should lead to investing more in building our future.

Representative Lee is working to get 50 co-sponsors to legislation to revoke the two AUMFs. I urge all readers to write, call, email or telegraph their Representatives and Senators and tell them that you want them to support and co-sponsor legislation to repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs.

Trump’s wall is a typical GOP maneuver: Propose a stupid idea that hurts non- whites to solve a non-existent problem

As Stephen Colbert pointed out, Republican strategist Stuart Stevens best characterized Donald Trump’s Oval Office speech about the proposed wall along our Southern border hours before Trump gave the speech: “There are numerous examples of presidential addresses made to calm a public. This will be the first to frighten a calm public.”

The partial federal government shutdown is now well into its third week and millions of Americans are suffering because Donald Trump and his Republican flunkies in the Senate insist on building a wall along the border of Mexico, a bad solution to a non-existent problem. We already do tight security screening and illegal entry is way down, thanks to a combination of better Latin American economies and the unwelcoming attitude of the current administration.

It’s not the first time that Republicans have addressed a non-existent problem with a solution that will hurt many people, primarily non-whites, and not help the country. Remember, the states under GOP control have passed dozens upon dozens of restrictive voting laws to address the non-existent problem of voter fraud by individuals. Just as the origins of building a wall is racism, so was the wave of new voter laws, which have targeted minorities, the young and the poor. For example, the Texas voter ID law allows voters to use a hunting license as proof of identification, but not a Texas university ID card. As with the wall, new voter registration laws solved a non-existent problem by targeting non-whites.

Time and time again, Republicans have used non-existent problems in the economy as the excuse to give tax breaks to the wealthy. Once again, there were no long-term problems with the economy. But even if there had been—as there were in 2008—the way to grow the economy and create jobs is never to give tax breaks to the wealthy. What works much better is to give tax breaks to the poor and lower middle class. But what works the best is to raise taxes on the wealthy and invest the money in the economy—building new dedicated mass transit, fixing roads and bridges, making college more affordable, developing carbon neutral technologies. Yet every time the Republicans seize power, the first thing they do is lower taxes on the wealthy. They did it under Reagan, Bush II and now, Trump. Lowering taxes on the wealthy hurts not only racial minorities and the poor, but the middle class and most of the upper middle class, in several ways: It takes money out of the economy, as the rich invest their tax savings in the secondary stock market, bigger houses and other non-productive assets. More important, the government has fewer funds to invest in programs that actually grow the economy and create jobs.

The Afghanistan war breaks the GOP pattern of solving a problem that doesn’t exist with something stupid and racist, but just a little bit. We did have a terrorism problem in 2001. The Afghan War started within a month of 9/11, supposedly to hunt Al Qaida. So the problem was real, but the solution was just plain stupid—the wrong answer, almost by definition, since every outside power that has ever tried to invade or control Afghanistan has instead got caught in the worst kind of intractable, unending, unwinnable quagmire. The Soviet Union, England, the Sikhs, the Mughals—all of these governments invaded Afghanistan, and all soon regretted it. As has the United States.

That brings us to Iraq. Let’s set aside the war for a second and think about what the government had done by 2003 to fight terrorism—greater cooperation with allies, an enormous increase in surveillance, enhanced airport and border security and the development of drones are just some of the many ways we fought terrorism from outsiders after 9/11. Some would say, and include me in this group, that we committed overkill. By 2003, terrorism was no longer a problem, thanks to the Draconian measures the Bush II Administration took, with the cooperation of the Democrats. Thus the war in Iraq was another wrong-headed GOP solution to a non-existent problem that ended up severely hurting populations of non-whites. It perfectly follows the pattern of the wall, voting restrictions and tax breaks for the wealthy.

Those who say Trump has taken over the Republican Party are absolutely and completely wrong. Trump and the GOP were a match made in heaven. Trump’s policies and actions are completely consistent with Republican ideology since Reagan. His decision-making process fits right into Republican strategizing: Create a problem and solve it with a cockamamie idea that hurts non-whites. The wall represents the apotheosis of Reaganism. Those Republicans like Romney and Corey Gardner who criticize Trump only dislike his obvious emotional instability, his crude style, his addiction to lies and the overtness of his racism. They’re fine with his policies.

Trump’s foreign policy does represent a break from Republican ideology, to be sure. He rejects traditional alliances and seems fond of autocrats—perhaps picturing himself as the de facto leader of an international white nationalist movement. Of course, the true leader is Vladimir Putin.

But he deserves credit for announcing the drawdown of about half the troops in Afghanistan. We can only hope that he follows through on this promise, and soon brings home all our remaining troops in Afghanistan.

That would be a start to dismantling the global U.S. military machine now operating in 80 countries total. We have active troops fighting in 14 countries and have recently bombed or used drones in 7. Our military personnel conduct counterterrorism training in 65 countries. All this, in addition to our 40 military bases around the globe. While Trump courts disaster to turn his back on our allies, start a trade war with China and replace multilateralism with go-it-alone bellicosity, his instinct to bring home U.S. troops is a good one.

But even when he gets it right, Trump screws it up. Of all the many places where the United States has an active military engagement, just about the only one we can justify is our presence in Syria. We have no business in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, the Central African Republican, Yemen, Mali and elsewhere, but our small force in Syria does bring a small measure of stability to the civil-war ravaged country. We can only leave once there is a permanent political solution that protects the Kurdish population. To do otherwise would mean we have abandoned an ally, a despicable action that we know Trump has embraced before in both his business and political careers.